Sunday, February 25, 2024

Andrew Durbin : In memory of Lyn Hejinian





A few years ago, when I moved from New York to London, I was faced with the worst sort of problem: what to do about all my books. By then, I had turned a room in my apartment into a library, and many hundreds more books were in boxes in a storage unit in South Carolina. The cost of shipping them all to the UK was too high, and anyway, I was beginning to doubt the value of leaving my books in boxes down south. What good were they if no one could read them?

After shifting through piles for weeks and weeks, unable to choose, I decided I would give almost everything away. At least then there would be some hope of these novels and poems finding readers again. When news broke on February 24, 2022 that Lyn Hejinian had passed away, I immediately went to my bookshelf to look up some favorite lines, forgetting for a moment that, of course, Id given all her books away. After the initial spasm of regret passed, I searched my computer for quotes Id typed uphow many of us have a .doc of Hejinian lines for possible epigraphs?or had sent to friends over the years. I read poems, passages, lines others posted online. So many memories of The Fatalist and A Border Comedy and My Life returned to me. I hoped that somewhere, someone was thumbing through my old copies.

One line from My Life quoted by Trisha Low lingered in my mind: I had begun to learn, from the experience of passionate generosity, about love. It’s the perfect description of what Ive always adored about her work; that passionate generosity”—her poethical wager, as Joan Retallack would put ithas inspired me for years. I spent the night finding signs of it in old PDFs of her books, in her PennSound recordings from the past four decades. I fell asleep to the sound of her voice. It was so familiar, but in truth I hadnt listened to it in years because I hadnt needed to. She was just so intrinsically part of my mental landscape.

I always felt well-prepared for Hejinians death by her writing. Her embrace of life seemed to depend on our acceptance of dyings centrality to everything. After all, her poetry was spectral, inclusive, a kind of cosmic dance for which there seemed to be no beginning and no ending, and so was all beginnings, all endings. This made her poetry a deliriously open form of thinking, a thinking that belonged to us all. Somehow, the idea that The Book of a Thousand Eyes or Oxota was authored by one woman in Northern California always seemed a little funny to me; werent her books really ours, with a bit of us in each line? Not that Id want to dismiss the singular brilliance of Hejinian, only I dont think she was especially taken with lonely singularities: …to reach behind that, and again behind that, into the unclear brine of the mind itself, she once wrote, a line I always took to nod to a collective mind, the mind, as if, below us, there lies an ocean of thought to which we are all connected. The sort of water—“dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free”—that Elizabeth Bishop describes toward the end of At the Fishhouses. That always comforted me.

After Hejinians death was announced, Ed Luker wrote on Twitter, The loss of Bernadette Mayer [in 2022] and Lyn Hejinian in such close proximity feels like the loss of an entire attitude: one built from a sense of care for language, an intrigue, an irreverence about who else gives a damn as long as YOU DO. Above all, I do mourn thisthat attitude. Perhaps it is always the case that when we get older, we start to notice, and grieve, the disappearance of whole sensibilities. Oh well. “Time is filled with beginners,” Hejinian once wrote. I like to think that Hejinian was circumspect about how life tends to move on without us. She asks in Happily, Does death sever us from all that is happening finitude? Her poems always seemed to resist an easy answer to this old question. But I suppose the answer is some form of yes, it does; the thread is snipped. Reading Happily in 2006, Claudia Rankine writes that this poem, one of Hejinians most expansive explorations of death,

embodies a mind in conversation with its context, its ambient circumstances. This is happening: thoughts are relating in part to the limit of thoughta limit approached when the body asserts its physicality over the ever-present existence of the self in thought, in sensation. In the moment when the mind and the body become fixed and the body supersedes the mind by asserting its stasis, its mortality, the ever-expanding power of thought and sensation can no longer propel us forwardbut this happens only once.

And you dont survive it. Others do, at least for a while. I will miss Lyn Hejinian, knowing that more poems are on the horizon, just as I still miss my copies of her books, but lately they have become part of my ambient circumstances”—and life itself. That feels deeper and more free than anything on paper.





Andrew Durbin is the author of MacArthur Park (2017) and Skyland (2020), both from Nightboat Books. His book on Peter Hujar and Paul Thek is forthcoming from FSG in 2025.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Sandra Doller : [I wish that I knew what I know]




I wish that I knew what I know
Rod Stewart knows now, I wish
I had his everything, especially
when he dolls it up for me, a flick
of a bang to the sky. How did Rod
Stewart get the way he got and how
does he not stop being that way.
Rod Stewart is a stand in for our
mother issues and our lack of
understanding of corporate
taxation rates, historically
speaking. Rod Stewart is everyone’s
worst vision for their child, like
who cares about the genetic
test that will tell me if I’ve got
a thriver or not, what if I have
a Rod Stewart inside of me, growing
now as I speak, knowing what he
knows now that he didn’t know
then that we know he knows now
when he wasn’t even beginning
to know it. Sometimes at the base
of my skull I can feel Rod Stewart’s
comb plucking a tangle, teasing
a feather from my hairs. Rod
Stewart on a tire swing, Rod
Stewart inside a tunnel, Rod
Stewart watching TV, Rod
Stewart driving on the wrong
side of the street in another country.
Rod Stewart is not me and I am not
him yet, but I am still growing and I
do not yet know what I knew then
when I was watching the news a lot
in bed. There is no way Rod Stewart
has a normal sized bed just like there
is no way some very large men have
regular sized toilets. There are just
some things you know and then there
are just some things you don’t.





The difference between the news
reporters and the internal

documentarians is one of

Let’s say I want this
out there now.

Like already.

Let’s say I wish I’d already
said it.

Had it eaten, consumed, drunk
for breakfast.

Let’s say good and done
and onto the next.

Out with the

A paragraph is not a problem
a poem is.

It’s not like I sit around
yesterday’s news.

But years gone by, remember
paper yellows.

Please deliver me the 1930s
New York Times by noon.

Do you read the news and think
you can have some impact on the news.

Are we talking affect or

Do you read the news

We watched for four
years until we stopped.

We kept waiting for it to
stop don’t stop.

We are trapped like tele-
grams from another time.

We hear people talking
out the window and

go to close it.
We do.

We are trying to record.

I have spoken to my colleague in this way
and received no reply.

I am worried there will be
mandated togetherness.

I heard you had a party
and it was inside.

It is possible the entire house
is being eaten.

Forces seen and

I need to be un if I am to be
at all.

I am talking career ending
in a way no one

from the future
will understand.

Maybe I mean
the past.

Maybe the future will be all
about career ending.

Before you take a step
take a leap.

Dummy didn’t make the thing
you think he did.

He lifted up his arms
and we all felt it.

We all felt good
for him.

To leave behind his scandal
of trees.

He levitated and orbited around
the driveway for a while.

Until his career
really took off.

Without commentary
or favor.

He was a success
of his own kind.

Never wrong,
always night.

Gilded a little
among the palms.




Sandra Doller is the author of several books of poetry and poetry-adjacent things including Oriflamme, Chora, Man Years, and Leave Your Body Behind, plus a smattering of essays, collaborations, and translations: The Yesterday Project, Sonneteers, and Mystérieuse. Her newest book, Not Now Now, is forthcoming from Rescue Press. Doller is the founder of 1913 a journal of forms/1913 Press, where she remains l'éditrice-in-chief, publishing poetry, poetics, prose and else by emerging and established writers. The recipient of various honors including the Paul Engle-James Michener Fellowship and the Anomalous Press Translation Prize, she lives in the USA—for now.


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